28 August, 2018

Djam Karet - California's longest running instrumental jam rock band

a short trip back in time...


Djam Karet - THE TRIP
(HC Productions HC016) CD 47m
A band that constantly keep bouncing back with great albums now and then, Djam Karet are one of the longest-running original real jam rock bands. They were doing it long before the terms trip-rock or stoner were invented. This, their umpteenth album (I've lost count) again finds them in a more daring experimental mood, further cross-breeding their patent groovadelic, synthispace and weird factions into a new big creation that again "goes places that no space-rock band has gone before".
The band has changed a bit in recent times. Three of the originals are still there: Gayle Ellett, Mike Henderson and Chuck Oken Jr., now with Aaron Kenyon on bass (known to us previously with the excellent Atavism of Twilight) and another guitarist, one Mike Murray. And this? Well, a new feat for Djam Karet, they'd done near-on 30 minute pieces before, but this is all one big piece, a work of many moods and diversions, a work that sizzles, trips, spaces-out, trips again, and then storms along, and... it revisits the Djam Karet of yore and fuses it with new ideas to develop further in the future - all flowing, riddled with solos and dazzling interplay.
References? Well, mostly this is pure Djam Karet. I could quote some Pink Floyd touches, the usual Kosmische and Krautrock references, and the vague touches of 1970's jazz-fusion. Most other current comparisons would be those influenced by Djam Karet! Excellent from start to end. Need I say more?
- from AUDION #58. Autumn 2013


(Auricle AMC 033) MC
One of the finest of 1980s progressives, a Californian instrumental band who blend the best of Euro styles, with the psychedelic air of Quicksilver, Man, or the intensive fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra. The resultant music will delight the guitar fan as well as the adventurous rock listener. "Kafka's Breakfast" is a reissue of their debut demo cassette, plus the bonus 24 minute space trip "Walkabout", a live recording that ventures on to and beyond the realms of classic Pink Floyd and Ash Ra Tempel. Gong and Ozric Tentacles fans may well delight at it too!


introducing: DJAM KARET
(HC 002) MC
Anyone out there longing for a return of real rock music? By rock music I don’t mean songs, I mean good honest rocking - "freaking out" as they used to call it, a vehicle for great, rhythms, multitudes of solos, flair and invention pushed to the limits. You want some pointers as to what I mean? well, take the lengthy improvisations of Man or Quicksilver, the acid space-rock of Ash Ra Tempel or Agitation Free, or as a prime but lesser known example: the legendary (early 1970's) British band Chillum.

It may seem strange then, that after all these years a new band should arise, producing this very special rock music, and of all places from California! The great shame is that while lots of people should theoretically like this type of music, the media has so warped the minds of Joe Public that most cannot understand anything that doesn’t conform to the predictable standard of verse, chorus, maybe a solo, verse, chorus, repeat - yawn, boring!

Hence the title NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL is so apt in this case.

This cassette exudes pure energy in the form of three lengthy improvisations: Where’s L. Ron??!! opens the album with abstract percussives and guitar, immediately I’m reminded of New 7th Music & The Exploding Headband, but this goes well beyond their realms, oozing and swelling in power, it becomes really aggressive, rattling along express-train fashion we have a continual foray of solos and interplay that is blisteringly hot. Dwarf Toss opens a bit King Crimson like, offbeat rhythm, guitars and bass all playing solos independent of each other; the structure consolidates, the bass joins the rhythm and away we go... into the land of Man at their best. Blue Fred covers side 2, and at 30 minutes is sprawling yet not the slightest bit boring, in fact for an improvisation it’s incredibly well conceived. Opening spaciously - in the world of Ash Ra Tempel or Quicksilver at their most inventive - building up in rock intensity we’re again treated to some of their express-train riffing, lots of solos, and continual change in the structure. Eventually after 20 minutes or so the mood quietens to a softer pace and a slightly jazzy style, the guitar here reminds me of John McLaughlin in his early days and is a nice recuperative way to end the tape.

THE RITUAL CONTINUES is their new tape, just released so I gather, and coincidentally it arrived in the post half way through reviewing NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL, so I’m listening to this first time while reviewing it. First impressions: ah, more tracks - 8 are credited (through there’s actually nine), also the addition of synths and keyboards. So, with this tape there’s more variety in style - take the opener Shaman’s Descent a great piece of techno-rock, really clean and polished like mid-70's Eloy, but with more guts. A City With Two Tales visits both the urban jungle and the chaos of construction, decay and destruction, firstly with a tribal percussive work and secondly with a wild plethora of guitar, pneumatic drills, voices and off-the-wall effects. Technology & Industry is more typical of Djam Karet, except that here we jump in at the deep end, with 5 minutes of the most blistering, brain numbing excessiveness I’ve heard for ages. Contrastingly A Quiet Place shows that they also know how to touch nature with their music, (also proves that being friends Steve Roach seems to rub off on everyone) it's very subtle with environmental sounds, synths, and tinkling percussion. The title track resurrects Popol Vuh circa HERZ AUS GLAS and fuses it with some hard hitting Amon Düül II style rock, at 10 minutes though it's not really quite long enough to get where I hoped it would, but nevertheless it’s very well conceived an executed.

Thus this second tape will be accessible to more people, in fact on second listen it’s probably the best of the two, though be it less cerebral and spectacular. With both these tapes however, you can have the whole range of what is best in instrumental rock music. No cop-outs, no clichés - just purely brilliant rock music, that I can’t recommend too highly!
- From Audion #6, October 1987

Djam Karet - Kafka's Breakfast is currently available as a limited edition CDR reissue
Buy direct here!

27 August, 2018

A condensed history of Stormy Six

When compiling information for the upcoming "A Fistful Of Spaghetti" Italian rock etc. encyclopedia, I came up this article on Stormy Six by truncating and revising the Rock In Opposition article from Audion #39 that I wrote back in 1997...

Stormy Six
Formed in Milan in 1966, the ten year history leading up to the distinctive Stormy Six sound is a strange one. Nothing is known about the original line-up, except that one Bruno Lauzi is credited as the original leader. Back in those days they covers of The Small Faces and  Credence Clearwater Revival songs. After this a shift in style occurred when new members Claudio Rocchi and Franco Fabbri joined the band.
On their 1969 debut album LE IDEE DI OGGI PER LA MUSICA DI DOMANI (The Ideas Of Today Are The Music Of Tomorrow) they'd moved away from normal pop music, to a more psychedelic mixture with folky diversions and even a weird freak-out number. This phase was short-lived however, and they changed again after Claudio Rocchi left. The second album L'UNITÀ was a folky and sedate collection of songs, whereas GUARDA GIÙ DALLA PIANURA was done as a contract filler and comprised of well-known protest songs.
After this Stormy Six started playing at the "L'Unita" festival of the Italian Communist Party and then went on to help establish l'Orchestra, and also expand their horizons. Since 1969, the nucleus of Stormy Six had revolved around Franco Fabbri (vocals, guitar, etc.), Luca Piscicelli (guitar, bass, etc.) and Antonio Zanuso (drums), together with a fourth member, expanding to a six piece with Carlo De Martini (violin, mandolin, vocals), Umberto Fiori (vocals, guitars, harmonica) and Tommaso Leddi (mandolin, violin, etc.) circa 1975. This led to a metamorphosis and a new original sound as heard in its first stage of development on UN BIGLIETTO DEL TRAM (A Ticket for the Tram), which mixed folk and progressive rock with lots of other genres, now fronted the unique singing of Umberto Fiori. A slight blip in their development style wise was the instrumental album CLICHÉ, featuring their music to two theatre productions "1789" and "Titus Andronicus". For this they sought the aid of jazz musicians: Guido Mazzon (trombone) and Tony Rusconi (drums) coming up with a magical album that's become an island unto itself.
L'APPRENDISTA (The Apprentice) could be seen as the definitive  Stormy Six, released at the time Rock In Opposition was established  (see RIO in the Clichés & terminology section). It saw a change in line-up too, with ex-Capricorno members: Salvatore Garau (drums) and Pino Martini (bass). The change isn't what you'd expect (Capricorno were a jazz-fusion band) but a complex refinement, introducing electric instruments to flesh-out the sound, and bringing in a more rock-based footing. On MACCHINA MACCHERONICA (Maccheronica Machine) Stormy Six had now become Seven. Carlo De Martini had left, and in came Georgie Born (cello) ex-Henry Cow, and Leonardo Schiavone (clarinet, tenor sax) ex-Maxophone, with Umberto now concentrating solely on lead vocals. Maccheronica is basically a made up gibberish language used in theatre, and there are a few pieces on the album that demonstrate this art. In all it's a whirlwind ride of innovation throughout.
After this AL VOLO (On The Fly) saw a move to progressive rock. Three members also collaborated with Cassiber (Chris Cutler, Heiner Goebbels and Alfred Harth) as Cassix. Then, in 1983 the band split up. There have been a number of reformations since, notably the excellent concert documented on UN CONCERTO from 1993.

Well, I think that sums it up in a nutshell!

Stormy Six CDs for sale at the Ultima Thule Discogs shop

26 August, 2018

Alto Stratus - quite possibly Leicester's longest running experimental band

The duo of Alan and Steve Freeman (owners of Ultima Thule, etc.), we spent much of our spare time during the early 80s experimenting with synthesizers, sound collage, etc., and during that period we recorded some 30 odd cassettes as Alto Stratus (and under other guises: as Vrije, Q.S.O., Electric Junk), also as soloists, and the trio with sound artist Nigel Harris in ZBB.

"Tachyon" was one the most fanciful and conceptual recordings from the early 80s, an era of intensive home studio work, experimentation, and honing skills as electronic artists. Our "studio" consisted of 3 cassette decks, a 6 channel keyboard mixer, and a few effects. Back in 1984, the "Tachyon" was thought to be "a theoretical particle, capable of travelling faster than the speed of light", whereas today scientists claim to have proved its existence. Such an idea amounted to a fascinating concept for an album. "Tachyon" is intriguing for us today, with references and influences of: Conrad Schnitzler, Teddy Lasry, Cluster, Dome, Heldon, The Residents, Stockhausen, Throbbing Gristle, etc. Being non-musicians, the way we put all this together is more from the viewpoint of sound-artists, relying more on colour and texture than normal melodic composition, yet it's surprisingly melodic! The resulting potpourri of all this is incredibly diverse, and still surprisingly fresh 15 years on. Digitally transferred by Colin Potter, with an obscure bonus track, this is some of the finest Alto Stratus, with infinitely superior sound and clarity. Now, on CD, it should last forever!

"Catharsis" was the first release from Alto Stratus in over a decade, but is not so much a reformation - more a continuation - working on ideas hinted at on older releases and with our other current project Endgame. It's partly the result of works in the Newt Hounds project, and an attempt to recapture the feel of Biomechanoid. The side-long "Necronomicon Suite" involves a 45 minute improvisation that amasses a wide range of styles (Dadaism and collage, through to cosmic synths and psychedelic rock) and is full of surprises, as are the three tracks that cover the second side. 90 minutes of unique Alto Stratus invention. And now, sporadically, Alto Stratus goes on, with many more releases, each a unique step along our own musical avenue!

Here's a totally improv live piece from 2012...

Buy Alto Stratus CDs here and downloads here

25 August, 2018

More Swedish gems that I have stocked when I can get them

Hills - MASTER SLEEPS (Transubstans TRANS075) CD 36m

Last Audion I made a point of reviewing the debut by this top new Swedish band. So, no reason to not sneak this one in ahead of queue! The reason? It's great, of course, and quite a different beast to the debut. In the debut review I quoted: Ozric Tentacles, Pink Floyd, Ash Ra Tempel, adding many a Kraftwerk and Neu! reference. There's some of those influences here as well, but they've gone for less of the homage factor here.
The opening track Rise Again adds vocals and sounds very much like Sun Dial circa their classic OTHER WAY OUT, heavy groovy neo/retro defined in 7 minutes. Next it's
freak-out time with Bring Me Sand sounding like a mad hybrid of Black Sun Ensemble and Hazchem, or is that Tangle Edge meets Saddar Bazaar? Whatever, there's lots of ethnic flavour here, in a land where Turkish, Indian and Mexican cultures meet! Maybe they thought a whole album at that intensity would be too much, so with Claras Vaggvisa we get a reflective Bo Hansson like passage before the high-flying The Vessel and the Krautrocky Master Sleeps itself, in which they seem to distilled the essence of Can, Neu! and early Kraftwerk into hypnotic groove that's all and none. Finally Death Shall Come takes a time-trip back to the early days of Swedish psych-prog - well at least to me it does as I'm reminded of International Harvester for sure.
An extraordinarily good second album, with lots of new ideas, some that I hope they'll take further in the future. The only it could have been it better is if it was it longer.

Kama Loka - KAMA LOKA
(Kommun 2 K2-22) LP 33m
(Transubstans TRANS118) CD 33m

Some cultures are so distinctive, and very often it's that culture that makes something so special. Sweden is no exception. Bo Hansson's music, for instance, would not have had such a unique character. Of course back in the early 1970's such concoctions were new, and then came along a plethora of other bands doing their own adaptations of the Ganglats and Polkas of Swedish folklore. The last band I knew of in this genre was Grovjobb, an excellent but very obscure outfit that released three great albums, and there's the one-time 1970's masters Kebnekajse who came back recently with two more such albums bringing the old sound into the 21st Century.
Add to the list this new group Kama Loka. A short album, but quite a gem. It doesn't start so distinctly Swedish. Yet Skovsøen does feel a little Landberk like. Elements too many to mention get mixed into Øjesten a lilting ballad with many a quirk and charm to it. Trold I Bakke reminds me of the great Kvartetten Som Sprängde with shades of Kebnekajse and/or Flasket Brinner and a Pink Floyd touch at one point. Quite obviously a traditional adaptation Ganglåt Till Floalt takes us closer to the aforementioned Bo Hansson, and bolted on top of the rich organ is a majestic groove, wah-wah and sizzling lead guitar, and an amassing array of sonic fizz, returning to whence it came. Finally När Lingonen Mognar gets closer to the legendary Älgarnas Trädgård, adding chanting vocals - ah, who let International Harvester in?
Classic stuff indeed. And sometimes 33 minutes is enough!.

Two reviews from Audion #58 (from 2013)

web update: Hills have released more excellent material, and Kama Loka kind of transmuted into the also excellent Agusa

Swedish band whose first 4 albums I really love, and would stock if only they issued them on CD...

Flowers Must Die
(Rev/Vega Rec RVR 017 / Kommun 2 K2:21) 2LP 77m

A new Swedish experimental prog outfit. Well, new-ish, doing some research I found out that they debuted in 2009, and this is their fifth album (actually the third proper album, the others are a demo and a live recording only ever sold at gigs). Confusingly though, like all 4 previous releases, this is untitled - so I can imagine this being referred to in the future as "the double album with a girl holding a skull on the cover" or No.5 or "Jamfota" after the album's opening track. Officially though, it's referred to as "Album No. 3".
To me "Flowers Must Die" would seem to be a reference to lyrics from the second Ash Ra Tempel album SCHWINGUNGEN, and there is a Krautrocky touch to these, but there's also lots of other things at play in their highly creative blend.
The opening track Jamfota ("Both Feet") feels a little bit like Norwegians Tangle Edge meets someone like Harvester, quite distinctly Scandinavian, whereas the second track is more out there early Hawkwind type fare. With the third track Spindlarnas Tråd (that's "The Spider Thread") the style of Flowers Must Die seems to focus more into something of their own. It's a hard thing to quantify, as in the next track Köket Brinner the riff strangely recalls an early Black Sabbath number, but as if it were performed by some Swedish 1970's outfit (there's a clue in the title!) - wigged out and floaty, with ethnic flavours galore.
Other Krautrock references are heard in further tracks, where they "wig out" even more, Amon Düül II, early Kraftwerk and Neu! especially, but all ravelled up with that Nordic mystique and a new daring do that makes it feel so alive and now! In that way I'm also reminded of another current Swedish act, namely Hills. I'm well impressed, but think it's a shame that only 500 people worldwide with the cash to spare for an expensive double LP will be able to get it. I'm hoping there'll be a CD reissue sometime.
After getting this I managed to track down copies of their earlier studio albums, which both also turned out to be excellent. These revealed their more heavy rock roots (hinting at what some related bands that I've been unable to find may sound like), still really freaky out-there and well trippy albums, if less obviously Krautrocky. More Hawkwind rooted I guess, starting as heavy improv trippy stoner jamming, becoming more cosmic on the second. All excellent stuff, and well worth seeking out.  [Audion #58 review]

24 August, 2018

When merely being the UK's best synth band wasn't enough...

RAIN FALLS IN GREY (Rune 256) CD 60m
TIME & MOTION (Rune 298/299) 2CD 157m

Somehow I missed reviewing RAIN FALLS IN GREY from 2007 in my last Cuneiform round-up, probably because it's one that took some time to assimilate. Also, I think I originally put it aside after their rather disappointing SEPTENTRIONAL. You see this is no regular RMI album. In fact it's not a synth album either! The clue is that it's dedicated to Syd Barrett, although nowhere on the actual cover does it say so, only on the wrap-around stuck to the case - which I seem to have lost - it says "...a sincere and moving tribute to Syd Barrett". The cover art is by Daevid Allen, the Gong hero who often said that Syd Barrett taught him all he knew, or something like that!
At the three Radio Massacre International (RMI) gigs I've attended they did some awesome space-rock numbers. This was due to a shift in instrumentation from the more usual synth-sequencer trio (with occasional other instruments) to a hybrid rock band. I think I'd give a better idea by listing the line-up here: Steve Dinsdale (keyboards, drums, percussion, glockenspiel, looper, vocals), Gary Houghton (guitars, glissando guitar, synthesizer, looper, vocals), Duncan Goddard (keyboards, bass guitars, Mellotron, p3 sequencer), plus guests: Martin Archer (saxophones, bass clarinet, recorder) and Cyndee Lee Rule (electric violin). Of course this no horrible pop album like the staggeringly terrible Tangerine Dream Barrett homage!
To me, it starts out sounding like some lost psych freak-out band of the French 1970's underground, a bit Gong, a bit Lard Free, largely that's down to the surprise saxophone we hear, puffing and grooving along with the music. As it goes on, more Floyd elements enter, although nothing is directly quoted - it's clever like that - it ends as much like a mix of THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS era Porcupine Tree and OCEAN era Eloy.
Steve mentioned to me Electric Orange whilst listening to the previous track and there's even more of that here in Bettr'r Day-s as it gradually gets more synthi it also gets a lot more Steve Hillage like with the looping guitar over a growing swell of Mellotron.
In track 4, the aptly titled Syd we get a lot more Barrett flavour, elements of Interstellar Overdrive meet? Yes, it's that nothing exactly conundrum again, all in a 3 minute slot!
After this the shift is more towards Pink Floyd circa WISH YOU WERE HERE, an album that was also a dedication to Syd Barrett. Here we have several different takes on ideas/themes radically re-adapted from Shine On You Crazy Diamond, first with a Porcupine Tree type groove that threatens to go into a version of Welcome To The Machine but never does, followed by more diversions, ending with ...Far Away which moves via a vaguely Hendrix/Gilmour guitar intro to a ghost of another Shine On... theme, becoming what sounds like Klaus Schulze playing with the Far East Family Band, before descending into lovely restrained spacey end.

Recorded February to June 2009 Radio Massacre International's latest opus TIME & MOTION partly sees the band revisiting 2007's RAIN FALLS IN GREY and again features guest appearances by Martin Archer on wind instruments & electronics.
The opening Kairos feels like a direct mixture of mid 1970's Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream circa CYCLONE. Martin's sax intro, and further solos in The Clockwork Time Dragon give this the feel of some Mergener & Weisser (aka Software) from the early 1980's, even the sequencer has the same sprightly nimbleness. The tail-off weird ending, with lots of piano-verb like cavernous sludgy sounds, acts as a nice bridge to Aeon which is basically a big open restrained picture-music panorama topped by a guitar solo. Chronos is the first track we get in patent RMI "We can do TD better that TD" mode transporting us back to a Tangerine Dream circa 1976 gig, but in RMI's own fashion - a theme/idea carried on in Equatorial Pitch. Disc 1 closes with Fission Ships Pt.1 a 15 minute slap of abstract deep-space music with more than a nod to ATEM era Tangerine Dream - wonderfully deep stuff!
Disc 2 opens with Maybe A Last Look At Joe's House another track that sounds like a lost Porcupine Tree jam circa 1995, another 14 minutes of classic space-rock, it moves seamlessly into Fission Ships Pt.2 another big abstract slab, this time 24 minutes worth of slightly brighter melodic tones and drones, eventually leading to a Mellotron underpinned guitar coda. Nine:Four:One opens inside a deep cavernous void and meanders through various phases (too many to include in a review like this) constantly leading the listener on as to where it will go next. Well it eventually, via a shimmering Ash Ra Tempel like bridge, runs into 30 Years (Slight Return) which treks back to RUBYCON era Tangerine Dream with swelling Mellotron sounds and, following a majestic guitar solo, the sax lead and sequencer-line reprises The Clockwork Time Dragon from disc 1 before going headlong into RICOCHET groove that transmutes to CYCLONE with Martin adopting the Steve Jolliffe role.
Excellent from start to end then, and with a lot of new ideas we've never heard from RMI before. Goes to show synth music isn't dead!
 - from Audion #58 - Cuneiform label feature, Autumn 2013

RUIN - Leicester's best-kept secret?

Undoubtedly the most ironic thing about doing your own magazine is how do you go about reviewing your own releases without seeming biased or egoistic. Often the trick is to do an interview or weave it into a feature. Or, best of all, get someone else that's a fan to do it! But there are cases where none of that is possible, and the only solution is to "throw the gauntlet".
A case in point here is Ruin, a Leicester band that have existed for many years, kind of lurking in the "underground" refining and developing their style from more basic
post-punk, blues and rock roots. A brother of the band leader, who we know as Wilf brought in some discs to the Ultima Thule shop a few years back that he thought we may like. My reaction was basically "like the jams and more experimental bits - dump the singer" a reaction that often means I never hear from the band again. But years later Wilf presented me with a new disc, grinning "I think you're going to like this one" - and sure enough, he was right.
This disc comprised rehearsal jams from 10 November 2011, with the usual trio of: Curly and Jack on guitars, plus Stu on drums, with Wilf featuring on electronics. Just three tracks of extremely creative music, that indeed showed many influences but also had a creative spirit unique to Ruin. I guess they'd put themselves into a special frame of mind and decided to do some post-rock type jams that would fit the Auricle Music ethos. The fresh vitality, disregard of convention (all buzzing, crackles and noises are intentional) and spirit of it all reminds me of Can in their heyday. Put that against their punky roots, and they come up with surprising results, a bit Public Image, a bit This Heat or Metabolist, and quite Krautrocky too, akin to the late great Rancid Poultry. Each track is a surprise, not least the last track which gets a lot more prog, and has a hint of early Twelfth Night or instrumental Courtyard Moth feel about it!
This November 2011 disc was later issued on Auricle as THE KNITTER (AMCDR 185) as a numbered edition of 20 copies. Soon after that Wilf turned up with yet more session discs, some involving him some not, and virtually all of them were excellent. After a few repeated listens and discussions with band members I distilled the March through to May 2012 sessions into two lengthy discs.
TENTACLES OF THE TRIPOD MASK (AMCDR 195) features seven tracks, five big ones and two short bridge/interludes. I was given free reign to mix and play with it however I liked, but I opted only to add effects and processing with the recorded material as source. Here we have a range of tracks including psychedelic jams, a spacey blues, freeform space-outs, at least one number that reminds me of early Volcano The Bear. Metabolist and Can are in there again, and two crazed Krautrocky freak-outs to finish it off. It leaves me emotionally breathless every time!
Keeping with the strange album titles SLIGHT RETURN OF THE HALF BAKED (AMCDR 196) is another double album's worth of material, this time with Curly expanding his instrumentation further (adding violin, Indian banjo, mouth organ) and some vocals - not normal singing though, but chanting in the manner of Faust or Metabolist. Jack also adds some keyboards. Again we have a track in the vein of Public Image Ltd., circa METAL BOX given a very strange stutter treatment, a venture into Hawkwind / High Tide territory, some really big extended space-rock treks and lots more, ending with the vast 23 minute opus War Neuro'sis.
By my reckoning Ruin can easily rival any of the best around at the moment. They have that special feeling of wanton abandon, daring to challenge themselves, experimenting fusing together elements we've never heard before. And they've been busy. So watch of for more from Leicester's best-kept secret!
[proudly presented by Alan in Audion #58]

Do you know Zeuhl?


Serge Bringolf was a talented jazz drummer inspired by Christian Vander, who released three Magma type albums in the 1980's. The band project name was Strave who debuted with a double live album (also reissued by Soleil Zeuhl) which was not bad, if too jazz for my taste.
VISION was the second album, from 1981, which saw them come along in leaps and bounds, actually the band had almost entirely changed except for Serge and singer Mano. They still had a very big brass sound, but that aspect didn't so much as swamp the music (as previously) but instead fleshed it out.
In the opening Vision itself, here we have the original 1971 Magma sound reinvented with later Zeuhl elements mixed in with a new off-kilter funky/raunchy/rocky groove aspect that sometimes sees them running along at breakneck speed in a music punctuated by guitar solos, and much much more! In this way they created their own new language of Magma inspired music. Singer Mano doesn't really do songs, instead he does a kind of scat, not sure if any of the vocals in French, it's more non-worded intonation. Not so Magma, the second track, the three-part Plus opens very Univers Zero, militaristic and dark, with part two signalled by a wailing scream from Mano moving in heavy ZAO territory but with brass, whereas the third part is more Weidorje like. After this the 13 minute trek Ma-Ho. Peneta continues in that racey fashion. It's really "Vision Reprise" mixing elements of what has gone before.
Great stuff then. What we need now is a reissue of the third album: LIVE.

SCHERZOO 01 (SZ 28) CD 57m
SCHERZOO 02 (SZ 31) CD 51m

Scherzoo are a new fusion outfit formed by François Thollot. The same François Thollot as previous solos on Soleil Zeuhl? Would seem so, although when he debuted and played everything himself his drum work was one thing that let the album down. On his second he left the drums to One Shot's Daniel Jeand'heur. Yet in Scherzoo he only plays drums. Seems he's been taking lessons, as here he plays with aplomb in a manner akin to Univers Zero's Daniel Denis. The rest of the band comprise: François Mignot (guitar), Jeremy Van Quackebeke (piano), Guillaume Lagache (alto sax) and Anthony Béard (bass).
Not so much Zeuhl, Scherzoo are still typically French fusion, more that jazz type of psych prog from the early 1970's, done all instrumental and brought up to date. So, along with flashes of Komintern, Red Noise and Gong, there are flashes of Magma-isms in the keyboards mostly, and as much Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson and Soft Machine. Both albums are comparable and excellent. 


The latest project from former Shub Niggurath guitarist Franck Fromy, together with a cast of young new talent, Unit Wail are going to surprise and delight many.
Unit Wail on one hand have that Zeuhl fusion aspect of bands from the 1980's, along with a unique daring and invention that's so now, fresh and full of elements, ideas, combinations that we've never heard before. I love the way they rip apart conventions and arrange them differently. There are elements to the music that as much remind me of early Anekdoten as Magma, bridging symphonic rock and funky edged twisted jazz wonderfully. That aspect also recalls some of the early Peter Frohmader Nekropolis works, but here we have sizzling guitar leads, Mellotron, high flying complex drives that outshine anything that King Crimson has done since THRAKATAK. Stunning stuff indeed.

- from Soleil Zeuhl feature in Audion #58

Soleil Zeuhl titles in stock at the UT Discogs shop

Amongst the most obscure of obscure Krautrock...

Zoppo Trump - Zoppo Trump
(Garden of Delights CD154)
Zoppo Trump first came to our attention via their two tracks Wellengang and Fluktuation on the SCENA WESTFALICA album, which were infinitely superior to anything else on the LP (included on this disc as the last two tracks). This CD documents the earlier roots of the Dortmund band with two tracks from 1971 and five from '72.
The opening Man Of Peace is a tasty piece of spacey prog, in vaguely Eloy, Satin Whale type realms, whereas Queen Of War is raunchier, with the singer reminding me a little of Bernd Noske from Birth Control. Not bad. The 1972 recordings after this cover more styles. Get Out Of The Fixer Circle and the following Confusion have a slightly Subject Esq. and Think feel about them. These also remind me many other such German bands, and of someone British, Skin Alley I think. The next few tracks are also all pretty good. Yet it never quite gets to that standard that makes it special enough for me. That said, the centre section of the 11 minute Dream Of Hope gets pretty tasty. I guess if I kept all albums I liked as much as this I'd have CD shelves covering every wall of the house!
Finally we have the two tracks I heard first. In "The Crack In The Cosmic Egg" I say that Zoppo Trump pre-empted EILEEN era Streetmark (and a feel similar to some of the Pyramid label artists), but with an all instrumental concoction with jazzy and classical touches. I guess so, although listening to these tracks now they feel more like mid period Thirsty Moon to me. Maybe next time I'll think differently again?
- review from Audion #58
- current Garden Of Delights stocks at the UT Discogs Shop

Krautrock meets Balkan-Turkish raga folk (well, kind of)

Radio Noisz Ensemble
(Garden of Delights CD148)
Odiszée Parck
(Garden of Delights CD155)
Another obscure blast from the past, I think I was the first to write about these decades ago back in Audion #16. We sold a couple of dozen originals back in the early 1990's via Ultima Thule, to many an amazed customer that couldn't believe that such a great band was unknown. In essence Radio Noisz Ensemble were a continuation of Emma Myldenberger, and no one had heard of them either! Three years on from their classic second album the band had evolved and changed into a new instrumental quartet.
Their album YNIVERSE is of course now a widely revered and acclaimed classic. Topsi Tkacz (bass, violin), Biber Gullatz (oboe, piano, crumhorn, flutes), Michel Meyer (guitar, mandolin), were all from Emma Myldenberger, joined by Matthias Gassert (drums), with Guru Guru's Mani Neumeier (tablas, congas) as guest. It wasn't just a name change though, all the actual folk per-se had been dropped, instead the mixture of other ethnic cultures had taken over. It's a pretty high-energy album in fact, involving even more mantric styled rhythms (akin to Third Ear Band), along with many a quote of a traditional theme (Balkan, Turkish, Middle-Eastern, etc.) all rolled-up into a spellbinding hypnotic music. Only one German band ever really hinted at this sort of music before, namely Between, especially with their rhythmic structure, and oboe as lead instrument. This CD reissue of YNIVERSE also includes 6 bonus tracks (31 minutes worth) of live recordings from around the same time.
We'd long known of a cassette release on the Transmitter label, but never knew if it was just a reissue of the LP or something else. The Transmitter catalogue never listed a title and it was already deleted at the time we stocked some of the label's Conrad Schnitzler titles. ODISZÉE PARCK turns out to be that cassette, which is recordings from 1983. Right from the opening title track you can hear that the band had developed even further in another year, partly due to a new percussionist (one Sigi Siegler) and with an increased jazziness, electric guitar more to the fore (an edge that reminds me of Rustic Hinge), and much more experimentation - but it's still unmistakably them. Although no titles are in common with the LP, the third track Rara undoubtedly quotes at least two themes from the LP. Classic stuff indeed, if only 31'25" - but again we are given loads of bonus live material, 7 tracks this time, totalling 45 minutes!
- from Audion #58 - buy it here
- Garden Of Delights label, CDs in stock at Discogs

Get The Blessing - jazz, but maybe not as you know it!

Get The Blessing 

I first found out about these when they were they were just known as The Blessing. That was at a gig at The Musician here in Leicester on Saturday 12 July 2008. I'd gone to see Black Carrot, then currently the most exciting band on the local scene. The quotes online actually gave little away "The Blessing are a blast" - Mojo. "At last: a noisy, thrashy post-jazz combo that sounds like a proper band" - Independent on Sunday. "Gloriously powerful" - BBC Music Magazine. "Seamless and startling" - The Times. So I had no idea who or what The Blessing really were, but was pleasantly surprised.
I half expected some sort of Material styled jazz-funk when I saw the line-up of trumpet, saxophones, bass and drums, and there was a hint of that - but here were put on a frenzied trip of updated electric Miles Davis type sounds, given quirky touches, a good few Krautrock references, especially Can type rhythms, and the two winds players often dabbled and played around with the electronic gadgetry as much as playing their instruments, so shades of Xhol Caravan too. It had taken them eight years to come to this, but it was well worth it - a new innovative jazz group that was British, a rarity indeed!
The Blessing comprised: Jim Barr: bass (he was producer, session/live bass player with Portishead ca. 1993-1997), Clive Deamer: drums (who had recorded with Portishead on numerous occasions), plus the two winds wizards: Jake McMurchie: saxophone and Pete Judge: trumpet. Apparently the name was a dedication to Ornette Coleman, not a musician that I'm into myself, but no doubt that's another of the elusive influences in their music I couldn't identify.
... Three years on, and album number three: OC DC again offers-up lots of surprises. It gets even more playful and eclectic than its predecessors. You'd think they were something to do with The Residents with the sweet-wrappered heads and tuxedos they wear on the cover, and the music reflects that a little. There are even themes that remind me of Faust's So Far or Picnic On A Frozen River, and we get boogie jazz with the backbone of early Glenn Branca. Maybe it's sometimes like an instrumental Gong meets Can meets Miles Davis meets..., but such descriptions are inadequate! I could go on name-dropping and fill the page up, but that would only confuse matters. Notably the tracks are slightly longer and the grooves even more "groovy". And, to use a well-worn cliché, they turn all their influences into something uniquely their own. [edited from Audion #58]

Get The Blessing restocks of 5 titles just in at our Discogs shop

23 August, 2018

The Myrrors - out there ritualistic psychedelic rock

One of my favourite bands of the moment, The Myrrors are like a time-portal into the past, with elements of Swedish progg underground, Krautrock and a mystical air all of their own creation. The title of their new album BORDERLANDS says it all!

For releases in stock at Ultima Thule on Discogs, look here

Quark - obscure space-prog from York

These first appeared with a promising cassette of instrumentals roughly bridging Hawkwind and Pink Floyd space tripping territory. All done with a new individual stle of course. The 2 cassettes they issued were later issued as a CDR release privately, which we then reissued as a remastered edition on Auricle 2 years ago. EVERYTHING LOUDER THAN EVERYTHING ELSE is now also available as a nice quality download...

Audion magazine - back-issues still available

Audion magazine was established in 1986 and kept on for 30 years, with 58 issues and other publications. Most back-issues are still available. Some are last copies or odd second-hand / ex-display ones only. Grab a bit of music history and have a good old read!

Audion index/buy here: http://home.btconnect.com/ultimathule/audion.html

One-off and rare magazines here:

Or buy via Bookogs: https://shop.bookogs.com/seller/ultimathulerecords/
at Bookogs you can view several pages from each issue!

Ultima Thule shop at Discogs

Ultima Thule - progressive music from around the world

Ultima Thule have the most exclusive collection of imports, private releases and exclusive titles, with a huge range of CDs and increasing vinyl stocks. If you love inventive prog, weird, electronic, fusion, psychedelic types of music, and things like Krautrock, Canterbury, RiO, Zeuhl, European prog, etc., we're the place to go to. Good prices and the speediest mail-order service worldwide!

Have look: http://www.discogs.com/seller/ultimathulerecords

22 August, 2018

The deep sonic/spacious world of early Michael Stearns

(Continuum Montage CM 1002) MC

This also has one piece per side. The title track features an instrument called the Eikosany Vibes, which produces a hauntingly beautiful pattern of curious and melancholic bell-like sounds resulting in a very minimal, slowly moving and almost ambient soundscape. Sleeping Conches utilises mainly natural sounds. The washing of waves, conch shells and delicate bell notes interweave to form a relaxing, elemental and meditative carpet (or should I say ocean?) of sound.

(Sonic Atmospheres 208) MC

Another album of two tracks! In Morning Michael once again employs natural sounds:- bird song, children's voices, insect chirpings, etc. (recorded live at dawn in the Arizona desert and a Mexican jungle it seems) to evoke the arrival of dawn. These natural sounds then merge into a beautiful and uplifting symphony of acoustic, electronic and wordless vocal music glorifying the beauty and freshness of a new day. New Age music with a difference, instead of just relying on virtuosity and technique which produces a cold and clinical aspect, Michael imbues his music with a feeling of and for humanity. 'Organic' rather than 'inorganic' New Age music is how a chemist might describe it. This music lives! Jewel is a hypnotic ambient piece produced with the Eikosany Vibes and a female chorus. The music shimmers and glistens like some immense precious stone slowly revolving and reflecting a warmly glowing light. Absolutely spellbinding!

(reviews by Peter Harrison in Audion #2, September 1986)

Buy direct from Ultima Thule or via our Discogs shop online:

Zanov classics on CD!

Zanov is a mysterious character of the French electronic / synthesizer scene circa the late 1970s and early 80s. During that period he made 3 classic albums. All have now been issued on CD and are now in stock at Ultima Thule, either direct or via our Discogs shop:

21 August, 2018

Sonde - electroacoustic with weird instruments

Debut LP by this Canadian avant-electroacoustic improvising group. Lots of echoed resonant scraping and cascading sounds, twisted and mutilated spacious swells...

In stock at Ultima Thule...

Sonde & similar, in stock st the UT Discogs shop...

Sonic Sculpture on Cosmic Egg

Obscure experimental free Krautrock jazz and electronics outfit, only ever previously issued as a demo, now available as a special limited edition on Cosmic Egg for those that love such weird stuff! In Sonic Sculpture I hear what could have been one of those groundbreaking albums on the CMP label a decade or so earlier, partly Krautrock, partly avant-jazz, and partly a genre no one has given a name for. In it elements of David Torn's "Tripping Over God" sit alongside touches of Günter Schickert, the crazier improv flights of 1975/76 era live Can, etc.. There are also fragments of abstract Dada like poetry, some of it in English, some in German, adding a Fluxus connection (Conrad Schnitzler, Albrecht./d references can be heard too). Add to that much that is their own and unique, and you have a heady trip that deserves to be more widely heard.

p.s. This is a different Wolfgang Seidel to the Ton Steine Scherben member and Conrad Schnitzler cohort (aka Wolf Sequenza).

Buy the release here:

20 August, 2018

improquadelectronic at Bandcamp

All these improquadelectronic titles are now "name your price" downloads. These are exclusive live recordings from gigs at The Musician, Bambu and Quad Studios in Leicester. Some are also available on CD from the Ultima Thule site (worldwide online PayPal ordering)



19 August, 2018

Dave Powell - the Hurdy-Gurdy man

A unique explorer in the use of the hurdy gurdy, aka "vielle-à-roue" and various other instruments. A great sonic explorer of unfolk "Industrial Folk Music" and electronic sound processing, with an original style.
He has expanded his range of instruments on his various solos and collaborations in Tartovisti.
Dave also plays in Triax, Extremities, Etherwheel and at Quadelectronic events.

Another new Auricle page on Bandcamp...

10 years of Quadelectronic

Quadelectronic is a unique event, that initially grew from gigs organised by Chris Conway at The Musician in 2004 to 2006, then our "Impromptu Electronic" sessions at Bambu in 2007-8, involving local musicians from Chris Conway improv projects: The Planet Scanners and Continuum, along with projects involving the Freeman brothers (owners of the Ultima Thule Record Shop) Alto Stratus, Endgame, Extremities and Triax.

Hosted by Chris Conway (well-known local musician) & Bob Bryars (Quad Studios). Quadelectronic is a unique inexplicable monthly event. More of a "happening" than a regular gig. An improv, jam, workshop event for those that love to experiment and interact in free improvisation. Open house, within reason, anything can happen. Naturally, the key focus is electronics, although other instruments extensively feature. Performances have ranged from free-form chaos to space-rock to cosmic jazz, to pure synthesizer or avant-garde electronics.

After seemingly outstaying our welcome at other venues, who would have guessed that Quadelectronic would still be going after 10 years? It's almost become a family of friends.
Witness this unique performance from the 10th anniversary event...

Photo/slide-show video with audio montage from July 2018's event...

Here are some handy links...
Quadelectronic - Cities In Flight 2CD set
Quadelectronic Documents archive
Quadelectronic Facebook Group
Early videos on Jim's Synoneiro channel
Ultima Thule gig news

Con-Hertz - myterious Berlin 1980s electronics

After Conrad Schnitzler left Tangerine Dream & Kluster (pre-Cluster) in the early 70's, he went on to be one of the most prolific explorative synthesists, and made dozens of albums, mostly as small private editions. In the 1980's he established numerous other projects, Con-Hertz was the duo of Conrad Schnitzler and Wolfgang Hertz Heusmann (ex-Aussenminister, Model 81), who made two very different tapes: "Face On Radio" consists of extracts (chosen by Auricle) from six hours of Wolfgang's remixes of archive recordings by Con in the style of "Conal". Aptly different, "Contrasts" is a direct collaboration between the two musicians, presenting a good deal of Con's best formative computer-electronic music, both melodic and abstract.

Embryo - Live in der Fabrik Hamburg 1973

Official reissue of this legendary live recording, remastered as a Limited Edition CD, and now available worldwide as a high quality download. This was a special Embryo line-up with luminaries Charlie Mariano and Mal Waldron, and from what many consider as their finest era. Embryo's "Steig Aus" was my introduction to their music and, although I'd never heard anything like it before, I was instantly hooked. It was my second original Brain LP - a doorway into this whole new world of Krautrock. After that came "Rocksession" another groovy trip from the same crew. Because this is from that time, Gil Funccius' cover for Rocksession is also  the inspiration for my CD artwork...

Xylemexperimental YouTube channel

Lots of new uploads at:

18 August, 2018

Kevin O'Neill - Icon

First upload of the Kevin O'Neill catalogue.

Pioneering Welsh synthesist primarily active during the 1980s. Kevin was one of the rare examples of a unique talent with a distinctive personal style. True, he did occasionally display his roots and influences in his music, but he never set out to copy or emulate anyone. So Kevin was not another Schulze or TD wannabe, and this was what made his music so invigorating and exciting - we'd never encountered the likes of it before! For this reason alone Kevin's music has remained fresh and vital.
     Initially we presented our favourite two, his first and third cassettes, cleaned-up for an authentic sound sans hiss or defects and remastered by Alan Freeman at Tachyon studio. Since negotiating those, Kevin gave his permission to reissue all his other cassettes and also two archive collections, adding up to the complete collection.

Ruin Psycho Groove remixes by Alan Freeman

Intentionally a dedication to Faust, created after many many hours...

Industrial music from the Interstellar Cementmixers


Back in the 1990s the Nottingham band The Interstellar Cementmixers decided to try out something different, something that was not their usual explorations into deep space. So they chose a new name and decided to put the accent on weird, and came up with this rather remarkable and twist work of electronic industrial type music...

Buy the CD here

New Krautrock sampler online

The Ultima Thule Discogs Shop


Lots of new releases added on Bandcamp

The Ultima Thule web site


The unique portal to a world of esoteric, creative & experimental music, Ultima Thule was founded in 1989 by Alan & Steve Freeman to fill the gap left by the demise of other specialist music retailers, with an honest out-looking but non compromising catalogue of music from around the world. Being experimental musicians ourselves, collecting prog & weird music since the mid-1970s, and establishing Audion magazine in 1986, we've always done it all for the love of the music, although it is handy to be able to make a living off it.
Please support us and order something! Go on, try out something new, challenge yourself, be adventurous!

What does "Ultima Thule" mean?...
1... In legend, Ultima Thule was reputed to be an island in the far North, in a perpetual state of ice and snow,  and where the Sun never set. 2,000 years ago, the ancient Greeks thought the edge of the World lay there!
2... Ultima Thule also has a much more profound meaning: the extreme limits and capabilities of human-kind. That is, to be able to grasp for the unattainable!
3... Ultima Thule is also a legendary Tangerine Dream single (Ohr Records, 1971) and the initial inspiration for the name!
Thus, if you've been searching for somewhere that specialises only in progressive rock & fusion, experimental, psychedelic, synth, electronic, avant-garde or weird music... You've found your Ultima Thule!

Steve & Alan Freeman, Ultima Thule, 21 Heather Rd., Leicester, LE2 6DF